The streets were still quiet and the sky still dark when I arrived at the Albrook Mall, west of Panama City. It turns out I can only access the platform from which the bus leaves using a coin which I don't have, and I end up just jumping the turnstile. The bus is on the way within minutes, and I slumber most of the way. Even though the bus is supposed to go to El Valle, I need to get off, and get another minibus to my destination: Valle de Antón. The road climbs the caldera wall of what once was a giant volcano, and then descends into the second most populated volcano caldera in the world. I get off at the entrance of town, and walk to the frog sanctuary. This is where the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog is kept, together with other frogs. It is endearing to see the tiny creatures.
My main goal is to hike, so I take a taxi that takes me to the other side of town. It takes a while to reach the trailhead of the India Dormida trail, and it makes me realize how big this caldera really is. My earlier plans to walk everything seem a little over-enthusiastic, given that I need to catch the last bus back to Panama City. There are quite some people at the entrance, and I wonder if they are all going to hike the full trail. As soon as I start the hike itself, I find myself in between small plantations, abundance of plants and trees, and it is getting quiet pretty soon. I pass rocks with old petroglyphs depicting before the trail finally starts to climb. There are several small waterfalls on the way up, and people abseiling through the water. There are tropical plants and flowers: this is the Panamanian jungle. I keep a steady pace up, and after sweating my way up the steep trail, the trees around me disappear, and I find myself under the blue sky.
I have reached the ridge of the caldera, and quite soon, I reach the first of many viewpoints. Below my feet, I see the entire valley extend into the distance. From this vantage point, I again appreciate the dimensions of the old volcanic crater. The trail now is much easier: it meanders on the ridge of the caldera. The further I go, the less people there are, and much of the time, I am all by myself. The last eruption of this monster volcano was 300.000 years ago, but that is a number I cannot imagine as a human being. What matters here are the sweeping views all along the trail. The fertile valley on one side, with a bustling town in it, and the jungle on the other. I walk to the far end of the trail (there are several ways to cut the trail short and descend into town), passing Cerro la Cruz and beyond, and then, the long awaited descent into the caldera. Then, it is still a few more kilometres before I reach town, seeing a multitude of colourful flowers on the way. When I reach a small supermarket, I buy drinks and fruit, and am in time to catch the last bus back to Panama City. A direct one this time.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Valle de Antón (Panama). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Valle de Antón. Read more about this site.